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Quality of life report: Colorado Springs making economic strides, struggling with high suicide rate

March 2, 2017 Updated: March 3, 2017 at 10:51 am
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The seventh edition of Quality of Life Indicators for the Pikes Peak Region were released on Thursday. The quantitative data in the 2016-2017 report defines quality of life since the previous report was released in 2013. The economy was one of the highlights of the report, "The state and local economies are both performing well with metrics that are often more favorable than the U.S. as a whole." Construction crews work on a new five-story, 170-unit apartment building that is under construction at Colorado and Wahsatch avenues in downtown Colorado Springs on Wednesday, March 2, 2017. Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette

The good: economic growth, falling crime rates and increases in parkland and open space.

The bad: above average rates of suicide and obesity, below average spending on primary and secondary education and an ongoing struggle to meet the needs of many of the area's at-risk residents.

Those were among the advantages and drawbacks to living in the Pikes Peak region detailed in a report released Thursday by a local nonprofit charitable organization.

The Quality of Life Indicators report, first released by Pikes Peak United Way in 2007, is designed to provide a road map for elected officials, community leaders, nonprofits and advocacy organizations facing fiscal or policy decisions.

The six past editions, the first of which was released in 2007, were compiled by volunteers. But this year, the organization shelled out $33,000 for the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Economic Forum to prepare the report, said Annie Snead, marketing manager for Pikes Peak United Way.

The organization decided to switch from a volunteer-generated report because some of the previous editions, issued annually until 2011 and again in 2013, contained inaccuracies, Snead said.

Here are some highlights from the 72-page 2017 report:

EDUCATION

In 2014, the vast majority of area school districts were below the national average of roughly $11,000 in per pupil spending on elementary and high school students.

But the proportion of the population over 25 with a bachelor's decree or higher measured 36.5 percent in the Colorado Springs metropolitan statistical area - about 5 percent higher than the national average.

SOCIAL SERVICES

Between 2005 and 2015, the proportion of households in the Colorado Springs metropolitan statistical area that were receiving benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, nearly doubled, from 5.4 percent to 10.9 percent.

Last year, the Colorado Springs area had roughly 6,000 housing units considered affordable - a shortage of about 8,000 dwellings to accommodate families in need.

In fiscal year 2015-16, Pikes Peak United Way's referral system hotline, 211, was unable to meet the needs of 30,210 callers.

HEALTH

The rate of obesity among El Paso County residents, which has inched upward over the past decade, was about the same as the national average in 2013-14 at approximately 35 percent.

The county suicide rates are higher than tin he state or the U.S. Youth suicide rates in the area also exceed statewide and national averages.

RECREATION

While revenue generated by the arts remained stagnant between 2008 and 2013, parkland and open space managed by the city and county increased by more than 76 percent.

ECONOMY

In March 2011, the unemployment rate was nearly 10 percent in the Colorado Springs metropolitan statistical area. Last October, it measured 3.5 percent - about 1 percent below the national average. Between 2000 and 2015, the county saw growth in health care, social assistance and educational industries, with a decrease in manufacturing jobs.

CRIME

Between 2006 and 2015, the number of violent crimes per 100,000 people decreased by nearly 35 percent in the Colorado Springs metropolitan statistical area.

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Contact Rachel Riley: 636-0108

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